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Parenting: The Best Ways to Discuss Problems with Teenage Boys


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Have Meaningful Discussions with Your Teenager

If you'd like to hold better discussions with your son, our pediatrician and parenting skills expert, Dr. Par Donahue, is here to help. He is the author of the book, Messengers in Denim. Today he'll share what he avoids saying and how to develop trust. I'll offer my own story too.

How to Prevent Teenagers from Talking

Dr. Par is able to extract sensitive material from teens when psychiatrists often fail. He says it's because many psychiatrists spend little time talking with their patients. They collect enough information to diagnose and prescribe. (Maybe their schedules stop them from more meaningful interactions.)

How to Help Teens to Communicate Their Troubles

1. Dr. Par avoids complicated medical words.

2. He avoids condemning their schoolmates or friends.

3. He makes boys comfortable by listening first.

4. Because they trust that Dr. Par really cares, they are curious about his thoughts and listen in return.

One Interview Mistake and One Solution for Comfortable Discussions with Male Adolescents

1. Avoid sitting across from your teenager because it can appear confrontational.

2. Sit side by side or shoulder to shoulder because it makes it easier for your young man to share sensitive material like his relationship with his girlfriend or drugs.

The Order of Questions to Ask When Discussing Issues

Remember, Dr. Par is not condemning during these questions. He is asking and listening.

1. What are the kids at school doing?

2. What do you think?

3. Can you tell me about your friends' activities?

4. What's going on with you?

Dr. Par makes the kids comfortable by showing he is listening and really cares. Now they want to know what he thinks. He shares his thoughts without telling them they are stupid or wrong. Because of his easy caring style and the fact that he listened first, they now listen to him. (From pages 237-238)


I appreciate Dr. Donahue's method. Being a busy pediatrician didn't stop him from hearing and understanding his young patients. I believe he's just told us the best way to influence our teens.


Discussion Story

One of my teenage sons, a reserved boy, didn't talk a lot. To understand him better I'd take him out to dinner once a week. We'd pick a quiet restaurant. I had some rules for myself:

1. Let him talk first.

2. Avoid being nosey.

3. Listen and say little.

4. Be approving.

Of course, I wanted to know what happened at the latest Friday night party. But I didn't probe. I let him tell me. Mostly, he talked about his music and why he liked it.

One day he told me, "Mom, you're my best friend." Even though it's years later, we continue to experience a deep connection.

That's why I strongly support Dr. Par's strategy. I know he's right because it works.


Let's PRAISE for sharing his special method for helping teenage boys discuss their problems. He's shown us how easy it is to build a caring connection.

Blog Optimistic Dr. Parnell Donahue
Dr. Parnell Donahue

Pick up a copy of his marvelous book, Messengers in Denim: The Amazing Things Parents Can Learn from Teens. He's filled it full of interesting stories with teens, golden nuggets for parenting, and medical advice.

Cover Messengers in Denim

          Available at


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With warm wishes,

Jean Tracy, MSS

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